The Bad Seed
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Bad Seed can be found here.

Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack), an adorable 8-year-old with long blonde pigtails, has a few unfortunate habits—like a tendency to lie, cheat, and even commit murder if anyone crosses her path. Her mother Christine (Nancy Kelly) fears that Rhoda's ruthless behavior may be inherited, since Christine's own mother was the renown murderess, Bessie Denker.

The Bad Seed was a 1954 novel by American author William March [1893-1954). The novel was adapted into a play of the same title by American playwright James Maxwell Anderson. The play was subsequently adapted for the movie by American screenwriter John Lee Mahin [1902-1984]. A remake of the film, also titled The Bad Seed, was released in 1985.

That haunting tune is the 18th century French folk song Au Clair de la Lune (In the Light of the Moon), author unknown. It is frequently used as an etude for beginning piano students because of the simplicity of the melody.

The title on the book is Inside the Castle Wall. It appears to have been made up for the movie. Elsie Dinsmore, the book that Rhoda won in Sunday School, is the first book in a series of 28 Elsie Dinsmore books written by Margaret Finlay [1828-1909] between 1867 and 1905. Ironically, Elsie Dinsmore is about a simpering little girl who endures and forgives abuse from adults like a miniature martyr. Since they are all in public domain, a number of the books have been made available online by Project Gutenberg.

Rhoda and her father, Colonel Kenneth Penmark (William Hopper), return home from the hospital to get some sleep while awaiting news of Christine's condition. That night, they are hit by a thunderstorm. Remembering what her mother said about tossing the medal back into the water, Rhoda puts on a raincoat and steals out of the house while Kenneth receives a call from Christine's doctor telling him that she is going to be all right and allowing him to speak with her for a few minutes. Carrying a flashlight, Rhoda walks to the park, headed for the lake. She walks out on the pier, grabs a fishnet, and begins to fish for the medal. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning hits the pier, killing Rhoda.

Yes. After each of the cast members is introduced by name and allowed to take a bow, Nancy Kelly (Christine) joins Patty McCormack (Rhoda) on the living room couch. "As for you...", Kelly says and turns McCormack over her knee to paddle her behind. This is followed by a postscript stating:

You have just seen a motion picture whose theme dares to be startlingly different. May we ask that you do not divulge the unusual climax of this story.

Because the movie was actually adapted from the play, and the play was adapted from the novel in such a way that it could be presented with a minimum of set changes, there are some notable differences. For example, the story in the novel takes place over an entire summer as opposed to the movie's time frame of a few weeks. In the novel, Christine's father has been dead for years, and Christine does her own library research on her background. The character backgrounds are more detailed, in particular that of Leroy the caretaker. Probably the most notable difference is that the ending was changed for the movie because the Hays Code during the 1950s did not allow films to show story lines where crime pays.

Other movies that feature children who are not the little innocents they seem to be include Orphan (2009), The Omen (1976) (remake The Omen (2006)), Village of the Damned (1960) (remake Village of the Damned (1995)), Case 39 (2009), and The Good Son (1993).


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